What mode of travel has the lightest carbon footprint?

For the past ten years or so, I’ve cut way back on plane trips, given the carbon footprint they entail. During these years I’ve limited myself to trips for distant family for events (weddings, funerals, aging parent visits, etc.) and perhaps one extra plane trip a year, usually to a distant UFO conference.

Whenever I do travel, I always think about my carbon footprint, and always wonder which mode of travel has the least impact. Of course, it turns out that it all depends. How far counts, plus, especially with planes, how many legs it takes to get to your destination and how straight the route, whether you fly first or economy class, how big and wide the plane, and how many are traveling together.

Interesting to see that the carbon footprint of regional jets, economy class, comes in slightly below that of a typical car.

And of course, when traveling in a single vehicle, it’s best to drive a hybrid car. And, in fact, the carbon footprint of hybrids comes in even below trains, just behind buses as the least impactful way to travel — even when solo. Whew!

Leah, one of my podmates, turned me on to this investigative report on the subject put out by the Union of Concerned Scientists. It’s full of interesting graphs and stats. for example:

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Getting There Greener (pdf document)


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